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Why Architecture? (Father's Day edition)

Many people have asked me why I want to be an architect. I have a difficult time answering that question without mentioning two father figures in my life: my dad and my lolo (grandpa in Tagalog). My dad--while not an architect and did not even endure through architecture school--works for the American Institute of Architects, and is very familiar with the profession. My lolo has been a practicing architect for 40+ years. He is 73 and still working. Thus, throughout my whole life I was exposed to the profession.

Even before my dad started working for the AIA, he got me involved in building and construction. They were just minor projects done on our fixer-upper house that I grew up in. I loved being daddy's little buddy, doing projects around the house and being assigned the very important duty of Flashlight Holder. And the multiple trips to Ace Hardware were always made better when I also got a hotdog and rootbeer. From a young age I learned the satisfying feeling after a long day of hard work. It felt good to see physical evidence of your progress.

My dad also took me to help with Habitat for Humanity projects. This was where I learned the importance of using your abilities to serve others. I also recognized how architecture was not just something you see on magazine covers or on the skyline of Chicago; but rather that architecture and thoughtful design is for everyone, and can be used to serve others.

Throughout the years, there have been a number of ways my dad has (perhaps unknowingly) shown me how architecture perfectly combines my love of art, hands-on work, and service. I say unknowingly because when it came time for me to decide on a major for college, he seemed somewhat shocked or maybe unsure about my decision. One night he sat me down and laid out the process of becoming an architect. The four years of undergraduate school, at least two years of graduate school, and the 4,000 hours of work experience... and then you take the Architect Registration Exam (which could take up to a year). I looked at the little road map my dad drew out for me and was filled with anxiety. If I'm lucky, I'll get to be an actual licensed architect in eight years, I thought. And what was the average salary of an architect again? The reality was daunting. But I looked at my dad, threw up my arms and said, "But I don't want to do anything else!" And after that, he basically said ok, and has supported me through this still-daunting journey ever since.

Similarly, my Lolo was surprised I chose architecture. He told me to try business because I'll make more money. To which I wanted to reply, "Lolo, you drive a brand new Mercedes." I told him I chose architecture because of how excited he always was whenever he talked about it. One of my first memories is of him coming to my house when I was maybe six years old and bringing blueprints with him to show my dad. I couldn't understand the drawings until I saw a toilet seat, and then got the basic understanding that this was looking at a room from above. He was so animated and talkative whenever he would talk about architecture. Now, I get to experience that excitement first hand when we talk about architecture. We talk about how architecture is perhaps the most important profession (duh) because the built environment shapes people's lives more than anything else. We get excited about wall details and RFI's, and compare our architectural lettering. This is one my most cherished connections in my family.

I think what all people in the architecture profession can learn from my dad and my lolo, is that architects need to be present in young people's lives. Not everyone is closely related to people in the architecture profession. Architects, designers, students, and lobbyists (my dad) need to make themselves present and visible to youth. They need to be seen in after school programs, rather than in magazines. There are kids out there like I was who deserve to find their passions, and have support pursuing them.

So Happy Father's Day to my dad and lolo! I am so blessed to have you both in my life!

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